Fun Rides - an adrenaline filled dayout
Elsewhere on the Forum is a new thread raising the question of what to do with a horse that meets up with a crowd of horses and catches what I call “Hunting Fever”. We have in Britain not only the Hunt but also what are known as “fun rides“. Quite honestly they are hilarious - if one can ride - but terrifying for someone who is a little nervous. In the Borders are of Scotland they hold what are known as Beating the Boundaries Rides - where locals collect together annually to beat the boundaries of the parish. Scotsmen aren’t known for their sobriety but they are known for their bravery. I am told that no “Sassenach” ( that’s an impolite word for me, an Englishman) dares to ride with them. What they of course did not know was that my horse was a Galloway - a Scottish Borders horse. Similar rough rides are held in Wales and the North of England.
The problem is that the horse catches a fever of excitement from the mass rally of a hundred or so very excited horses. The horse suddenly is aware that he is in for a race with other horses - some of whom may be his mates. The horse will sense the moment and suddenly come alive. It will go on tip toe. When restrained he’ll reach up and down and snatch for control of the reins. The rider must retain control of the horse’s neck at all times. The neck controls the speed and maybe the direction of the horse - although some cobs can have their necks turned left whilst they are galloping to the right. Once the fever catches on, there is no way to keep the horse calm - all the rider can hope for is to keep it under some degree of control.
In taking part in such rides, I have learned a few pointers:
Never feed the horse up with oats the night before - the horse doesn’t need them. Feed it yes, but not with ingredients which will heat it up.
Fit a harsh bit - not a fiddly two rein job but something sturdy. I use a form of twisted snaffle
Undoubtedly you‘ll need, as a reserve at least, some hefty brakes.
Strap the horse up with a hunting breast plate complete with running martingale. - this way you’ll have more leverage on the head & mouth
And if the saddle slips it will not turn round the horse‘s belly.
Wear sturdy leather gloves and a safety helmet.
Go to bed early the night before and have a good healthy breakfast in the morning.
Make up a hip flask - you’ll need something to keep your spirits up - anyway it is traditional.
The horse you choose to ride must be sure footed and bold. It is not so much speed you need as boldness. A fox hunter does fine. Know the horse well.
Be prepared to jump obstacles, streams , ditches - even if normally you don’t jump anything.
Ride from the very beginning in close contact with the horse’s mouth - if the horse gets its full head and neck - then you are lost.
Take the stirrups up by at least two notches - cross country , knees bent cross country style
Wear a water proof jacket - it always rains.
It can be a cracking day out. You’ll come home exhausted. But you do have to have a sturdy steed who will take you there and bring you home. Such rides are not for the faint hearted and certainly not the novice. But for sure the day will be filled with adrenaline. The horse will need a couple of days off.
Some folks say there should be an age limit for such rides - perhaps there should be. However looking at the ability of some young riders today I wonder whether it should be a lower age limit or an upper age limit. Many young teenagers can ride far better than I ever could and certainly nowadays I have to think carefully before I fall off. Anyway I now have an excuse - my current horse simply would not be suitable - she is too much of a prissy mare.
I have attached three stories - two about Joe, my Galloway horse and one - in a form of code - which talks about William - my favourite horse of all times.